Ridesharing has potential to solve traffic congestion woes

  • The average Asian citizen spends an inordinate amount of time in traffic
  • Benefits of ridesharing are wide-ranging and includes public infrastructure investment


Ridesharing has potential to solve traffic congestion woes


A RECENT study of the impact of private care use and the potential benefits of adopting ridesharing in nine major cities in Asia by global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) stated that, if adopted to its fullest potential, ridesharing will significantly reduce peak hour road congestion – up to 91% in Kuala Lumpur.

The study was commissioned by Uber as part of its #UnlockingCities campaign that seeks to highlight congestion problems and promote the potential benefits of adopting ridesharing in Asia.

Citizens of Asian cities have long suffered through traffic congestion, high expenditure on petrol and wasting time in traffic jams as well as looking for parking, most of which can be avoided, says the study.

For example, there are more than 5.8 million cars in Kuala Lumpur but BCG’s analysis reveals that the city only needs 60% of the cars currently on the road to get the same amount of people to where they are going.

Across Asia, the average citizen is stuck in traffic for 52 minutes and spends 26 minutes looking for parking every day, which adds up to 19 days in a year. The average driver in Kuala Lumpur spends 20 days a year stuck in traffic or looking for parking spaces. In Jakarta, the average is 68 minutes in traffic and 21 minutes looking for parking – 22 days per year.

Car owners also do not use their cars efficiently - during peak hours in Jakarta, there are 50% more cars on the roads but 50% of the cars on the road during those times carry only one person. This means that trips during rush house take 1.8 times longer than at other times.

In Singapore, despite government initiatives such the Off-Peak Car and Weekend Car schemes, and electronic road pricing, that are aimed at restricting the number of cars on the road, there are 25% more cars on the road during peak hours than the roads were designed for.

According to the BCG study, 12% of Singapore’s land is used for roads, a large percentage when compared to the 14% used for housing on the island nation. In fact, Singapore’s Land Transport Ministry has instated active vehicle ownership controls and stated that building more and more roads is not sustainable given the nation’s land constraints.

Collaboration and political will required

Can ridesharing be a solution to these problems? The study seems to state that citizens in the cities studied hope that it can.

A survey conducted as part of the study among 9,000 car owners in the nine cities in Asia showed that 40% of vehicle owners have over the past year considered stopping driving their car. In Jakarta, 29% of car owners are reconsidering owning a car.

The survey also found that while 83% of Kuala Lumpur residents said that they plan to buy a car within the next five years, 28% of this number would be willing to forego buying a car if ridesharing meets their demands, with another 54% stating that they would be somewhat willing to do this. In Jakarta, 80% of commuters surveyed plan to buy a car within the next five years and 40% of this number said that they would likely not buy a car should ridesharing meet their needs.

Fifty-one percent of residents in Kuala Lumpur believe that ridesharing services can be a substitute for owning a car, provided that the services meet their expectations and desired levels of availability, price and timeliness.

The BCG study estimates that the number of private vehicles currently on the streets of Jakarta can be reduced by 60% if ridesharing becomes a viable alternative for private vehicle ownership and carpooling becomes commonplace. This will mean 2.5 million less cars on the road, significantly reducing congestion in Jakarta.

However, demand and meeting consumer expectations are not the only factors required for ridesharing to take off and benefit consumers.

For ridesharing to really work, support from the government is needed, says partner and managing director of The Boston Consulting Group Rick Ramli. He says restrictions to vehicle supply and ownership, price controls and barriers to mobile app usage can all hinder the adoption of ridesharing and limit the benefits it can bring to a city.

While this may be true, it can also be argued that, taking into consideration the findings of BCG’s study, the current number of cars that are on the road or are allowed on the road in the various cities is sufficient or even more than sufficient to transport citizens where they want to go through ridesharing.

Government collaboration with companies such as Uber, along with collaboration with relevant stakeholders, is, however, important to reduce traffic congestion and effectively manage transportation networks through the sharing of insights.

Uber’s general manager for Malaysia and Singapore Warren Tseng, says that, as an organisation that seeks to use technology to help overcome longstanding problems, Uber is keen to work collaboratively to solve these problems.

Next page: Is ridesharing relevant when public transportation systems work?


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